Toronto Raptors: Five crazy predictions that might come true

Toronto Raptors - Fred VanVleet (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Fred VanVleet (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Fred VanVleet (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Raptors have the best defense in the NBA

Let’s go positive out the gate. The Toronto Raptors have an incredible defensive roster. They have veterans, top-end talent, and depth 1-15 (well maybe 14, if you don’t count Matt Thomas). Toronto should have a floor of a top-10 defense. If everything breaks right, they might be better than people expect.

Last season, the Raptors finished with the fifth-best defense in the NBA. With a rating of 106.8, they were 1.9 points off the first-place Milwaukee Bucks, a significant but not insurmountable difference.

For Toronto, replacing Leonard will be easier than most project. His replacement in the starting lineup, OG Anunoby, is already a better regular season defender. And the reinforcements Toronto brought to stabilize the bench, Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, are capable of providing serious defensive impact (if they ever pull their stuff together).

The tougher replacement will be Danny Green. The near All-Defensive Team selection did whatever Toronto asked of him. He defended point guards, chased shooters, and was sneakily one of the best transition defenders in the league. Norman Powell is a definite downgrade from Green, but if he starts to play with a little more awareness and craft, he can replicate 80-percent of what Green did last season.

Last year’s defense was built on competence throughout every position on the court. They were on a five-man chain with no weaknesses and no area to attack. That won’t change this season, even if some of the individual players have.

The Utah Jazz got better as a team this offseason but took a step back defensively. The Milwaukee Bucks replaced Malcolm Brogdon with Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver, both of which almost certainly love a 4:30 dinner time. The other teams in front of Toronto (the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder), can easily be surpassed. Perhaps the most likely candidate to have the best defense, the Philadelphia 76ers, is still incorporating multiple new pieces and will continue to do so throughout the year.

The chances of any team having the absolute best defense are pretty low for any team, and there are still a couple of teams with better odds than the Raptors. However, there is a path for Toronto having the best defense in the entire league, if everything breaks right.

Odds: 8-percent